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Is your website ready for the holiday shopping rush?

- By Kyra Kuik - Nov 08, 2019 Performance

The weather outside might be frightful, but holiday shopping is so delightful….unless you’re an ecommerce business, then the holiday shopping season can be stressful. 

Ecommerce businesses know the holiday season is vitally important to the success of their financial performance. Jason Aten even went so far as to say:

“Online retailers essentially live and die by the sales season between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.”

Not only are online sales incredibly important during the holiday season, the volume of ecommerce sales is steadily increasing. Salesforce predicts that global digital revenue will grow 15% from last year, while US digital revenue will grow 13% from last year—all from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

On top of that, around 53% of all holiday shopping is expected to be done digitally. So, you get the picture: online shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas is big deal. But what can you do to ensure your ecommerce business is ready? 

1. Focus on mobile experience

According to the 2019 Shopping Report, 20% of holiday purchases are expected to happen on mobile devices and over half of holiday shoppers report spending more than three hours on their phones every day.

Providing a smooth mobile shopping experience is key to winning your share of holiday shopping—especially since 40% of users will go to a competitor after a bad mobile experience. Here are a few ways to ensure your mobile shoppers have a pleasant experience:

  • Create a mobile-friendly checkout process. Firstly, allow shoppers to checkout as a guest. Most users will abandon a site if it requires them to create an account before making a purchase. Beyond that, ensure shopping cart details are clear, including product name, quantity, price, and a photo. Allow users to easily edit the quantity and size and include ‘remove’ or ‘save for later’ options directly within the shopping cart.
  • Support interactive images. Product images on a phone are often small. Make sure users can double tap and pinch to zoom in on product photos.
  • Prioritize the search bar. 30% of ecommerce shoppers use the search bar to discover and find products. Place the search bar above the fold on your mobile site and include autosuggest options, so users can discover different categories that are similar to the ones they’re searching for.    

2. Invest in your ads and landing pages

20% of holiday shoppers begin their gift searches on Google, which means there’s a big opportunity to target these searchers with the right ads and landing pages.

But, not surprisingly, holiday ads can be competitive, so keep a few things in mind for your ads and landing pages: 

  • Include specifics on deals and shipping dates. Add a countdown until the holiday shipping cutoff date or days left in a sale to drive urgency and click-throughs.
  • Use display ads strategically. For competitive and expensive keywords, try using display advertising instead of search ads, since display is often much cheaper.
  • Look at cohesion. Make sure your ad groups use highly-relevant keywords and that your landing pages reflect those keywords. When holiday shoppers are after something specific, it’s very frustrating for an ad to lead to a home page or generic landing page.
  • Take speed into account. When it comes to ads and landing pages, speed counts for a lot. Not only is it a factor in your Google Quality Score, but page load time drastically affects user experience on your site—not to mention conversion rates! Users start to lose patience after just two seconds of load time, so make sure your landing pages load within that timeframe. 

3. Know your audience

If you’re going to optimize your site for shoppers, then it’s obviously important to understand more about them and their goals. Who are your shoppers? Are they on different devices, operating systems, or networks? And is the shopping experience you provide consistent across all of those factors? Here are a few ways you can start to answer those questions:

  • Look at locations and devices. Take a look at your analytics from the past 6-12 months. Which devices do your customers use? Which operating systems do they use? Where are they located geographically? From there, you can see if there are certain areas you need to improve. For example, if the majority of your shoppers are in the US, but your website is hosted in Europe, your shoppers might experience slow loading times.
  • Investigate buying patterns. By looking into buying patterns, you can easily implement successful cross-selling and up-selling campaigns. You’re 14 times more likely to sell to an existing customer, rather than a new prospect. Auto-suggest complementary products or similar products for customers, retarget them with display ads, or email them with follow up ideas for more gifts.

4. Manage page weight 

When it comes to online shopping, and specifically mobile shopping, speed is of the upmost importance. 74% of mobile users will abandon a site after waiting 5 seconds for a page to load and 46% will not return to a website that performs poorly.

In the 2017 holiday season, mobile bounce rates were 44% for pages that took 3 seconds to load, but that dropped to 38% for pages that took 1.5 seconds to load. A large part of speeding up your website is working on the weight of your pages. Don’t be intimated by some of the technical jargon of page speed—most CMS systems have plugins that manage much of this for you. But there are a few things you should stay on top of:

  • Optimize images. This is perhaps the easiest place to start when it comes to reducing page weight. There are loads of free image compressors, like TinyPNG or, that can significantly reduce your images file size by removing unnecessary file information.
  • Use browser caching. When you enable browser caching, a user’s browser can cache static files, so they won’t have to download them again the next time they visit your site.
  • Streamline CSS and JavaScript. “Minifying” or combining your CSS and JavaScript files reduces unnecessary code and the number of HTTP requests it takes to load your site.
  • Lighten up web font files. Those beautiful, stylized fonts can actually slow down your site, because the font files increase the size of the page. If you’ve downloaded a huge font library, but only use a few icons, you can end up with a huge file that isn’t being used. Reduce the number of external web font sheets you use. Most font libraries also let you select only the portions of the library that you need, so you can combine and reduce file size to help your site load faster. 

5. Prioritize which content loads first

Often times, sites that appear to load super-fast, actually just prioritize content above the fold to load first—making the site appear to be very fast loading. Use this to your advantage in order to  increase conversions. Your product info, call-to-action elements, and other important features should load before anything else.

To start prioritizing content to load first, look at how you can: 

  • Optimize JavaScript. Scripts that are not tagged with defer or async will block HTML parsing, which means your content will be delayed. Defer loading noncritical JS, so users get priority content first, then load your JS after the page content has loaded. Look through scripts on your pages to see which ones are necessary, then ensure they load efficiently.
  • Optimize your CSS delivery. Use only one external CSS style sheet to reduce the number of requests. If you have multiple CSS files, then they should be combined into one. Don’t use @import to call CSS files, but rather the <link> tag.
  • Lazy loading. Lazy loading means that images load at full resolution as a viewer scrolls down to see them. This means viewers always see full resolution images, but the page can be loaded element by element. Some experiments have found lazy loading can reduce page load time by 90%.